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Abbott Launches Initiative for Diagnosis of Liver Health and Raise Hepatitis C Awareness in India

  • For the first time in India, Access to NON-INVASIVE DIAGNOSIS OF LIVER HEALTH will be made available free of cost to ABOUT 1.5 LAKH people
  • launches  generic sofosbuvir for treatment of chronic hepatitis c infection

Delhi, 09 June 2015 –– Abbott, India’s leading multinational healthcare company announced the launch of ‘LiverHealth’, a new  initiative aimed at providing access to an   easy diagnosis of liver health and raising awareness of Hepatitis C (an infectious disease affecting the liver, caused by the Hepatitis C Virus) condition in India. 

Under this initiative, for the first time in India, people in states with high prevalence of Hepatitis C infection like Punjab, Haryana, NCR region and North East will have an opportunity to have their liver health checked free of charge through a non-invasive liver imaging technology*. In a matter of a few minutes, this technology scans and determines the stage of their liver infection 1. It is also regarded as a reliable alternative for liver biopsy, an invasive technique currently used in defining the stage of liver disease 2, 3.

People at high risk of Hepatitis C are the ones undergoing medical procedures (such as blood transfusions) in a clinical setting with poor infection control practices; people who inject drugs using contaminated injection equipment; those who have used intranasal drugs or have undergone cosmetic procedures (such as tattooing, body piercing); people whose sexual partners are infected with HCV and children born to mothers infected with HCV. ***

People at high risk of Hepatitis C in the states of Punjab, Haryana and National Capital Region(NCR) can call the toll free number: 1800 209 5222 to know about the nearest place where the free liver health diagnosis is available in their city and for further information on the initiative.

Approximately 185 million people worldwide and about 12 million people in India are infected with Hepatitis C 4, 5, 6. It is estimated that the prevalence is high in the states of Punjab (5.2%) 7   and Arunachal Pradesh (7.89%) 8.  Prevalence is highest among people 41–50 years of age, and men were more commonly infected than women 9. According to a WHO reportnearly 96,000 people die annually in India due to Hepatitis C, making it one of the country’s hidden epidemics 10.

Hepatitis C infection is often asymptomatic, but chronic infection** can lead to scarring of the liver and cirrhosis. Some patients may also develop liver failure, liver cancer, or life-threatening complications 11, 12, 13. Data indicates that most people (60%-80%) who have chronic hepatitis C display no symptoms and are unaware of being infected 14.  Of those exposed to HCV, about 40% recover fully, but the remainder, whether they have symptoms or not, become chronic carriers. Of these, 20% develop cirrhosis. Of those with cirrhosis, up to 20% develop liver cancer 15. This clearly demonstrates the need for early diagnosis to ensure infected people can manage their disease better.

“Hepatitis C virus causes chronic infection leading to cirrhosis and may cause liver cancer. Its symptoms are not obvious and often people come for treatment at an advanced stage of liver disease,” said Dr Ajit Sood, HOD Gastroenterology, Dayanand Medical College, Ludhiana. “Hepatitis C is preventable and curable if detected and treated early. While blood tests can help determine if a person is a HCV carrier, it is critical to know the condition of the liver health to initiate treatment of Hepatitis C. Today, non-invasive techniques (like Transient Elastography) can determine the liver health accurately, enabling easy and early diagnosis of liver health which in turn will help us treat people with Hepatitis C infection better.”

“Abbott believes that good health is the starting point for achieving the most in life,” said Rehan A. Khan, Managing Director, Abbott India Limited. “We’ve been helping people in India live healthier lives for over a century and our deep understanding of the country helps us effectively identify and address unmet needs. We believe that this ‘LiverHealth’ initiative will help people seek timely diagnosis of their liver health and treatment if needed, thereby helping them live fuller lives through better health. We plan to reach out to about 1.5 lakh people in 2015 through this initiative.”

Launch of generic Sofosbuvir in India

Abbott also announced the launch of the generic version of sofosbuvir – a novel, once-daily oral treatment for people with Hepatitis C infection 16.

Sofosbuvir opens a new era in treating chronic HCV infection by increasing sustained virologic response (SVR) rates, higher cure rates, a two-to-four fold reduction in duration of treatment depending on the genotype while also minimizing treatment-related side effects 16, 17, 18, 19. Sofosbuvir should be used together with ribavirin or in combination with Peg interferon alfa and ribavirin to treat chronic hepatitis C infection 16.

Before the launch of sofosbuvir, Hepatitis C infection was treated with Pegylated interferon alfa (an antiviral drug  having a dual mode of action – on viral replication and on the immune system) along with Ribavirin 20, 21. However, this therapy had challenges as far as treatment of people with liver cirrhosis due to chronic Hepatitis C infection. 20 – 60% of patients were non-responders depending on the genetic makeup of the virus# and many patients dropped from treatment due to side effects. The pharmacological properties of sofosbuvir ensure a favourable outcome as compared to other direct antiviral agents 22. 

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